Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology

Marketing & Technology For Independent Financial Advisors


Archive for June, 2012

Making Your Client Portal Compelling And Easy For Clients

Advisor Products has nearly five years of experience in developing client portals and provides secure portals to more than 45,000 clients of RIAs.

The key to success, we’ve learned, is in making it easy on clients.

By automatically notifying a client whenever their advisor uploads a document, AdvisorVault puts an unprecedented amount of personal financial information at your clients’ fingertips.

You’re not sending clients “canned” information. It’s about their accounts, their wealth. Clients care about that.

Your clients are not morons. They know AdvisorVault notifications provide important and personal financial information. Some clients check data daily, but most check it once a month or less.

Knowing the information is there is what’s important to clients.

Telling clients the information will always be there is good marketing for advisors.

Email Module

To notify clients when new personal information becomes available, AdvisorVault’s email communication module makes it easy to create “template emails.”

Template emails generated in AdvisorVault include your logo and come from your personal email address. They are captured by your email archive system.

The body of the text of template emails in AdvisorVault is personalized. John Smith gets a “Dear John Smith” email with a personalized URL to log into his personal portal.

The screenshot above shows 16 template emails included with AdvisorVault, covering the most common activities of advisors using client vaults. For example, when an advisor uploads a document, the email at the top of the list, “Advisor Document Upload,” can be sent automatically.

Setting up an automatic email notification is easy for an advisor. In the screenshot above, each of the email templates checked off will be sent automatically. Whenever you add a new client vault or reset a client’s password, for example, a template email can be sent automatically.

Template emails can be sent in batch or one at a time. If you change all of your clients’ passwords or upload a document for all of your clients, for instance, all of them can be sent an email notification.

Also you can create your own template emails. If you batch upload clients’ brokerage statements, for example, you can write an email and that will be automatically sent. The email is short but personal.

Marketing Advantage

While unbridled transparency may not fit your style currently, those who practice this way are likely to find the transparency a marketing advantage. Plus it’s the right thing to do.

This is where the world is headed. Full-disclosure is your friend. It’s what fiduciaries do.

You can be the guy who makes information available to clients over the Web. Or not.

If not, those who do embrace transparency this way will be happy to compete against you.

Client portals offered by advisors are not consumer apps. They’re made for advisor clients. Email templates is just one feature of many enabled by AdvisorVault that advisors won’t get from consumer apps like Dropbox and FileShare, which are being promoted by some consultants who don’t have our experience.

Data from portfolio management, CRM, and professional applications can’t be found in consumers apps. With 50 million users, integration with your PMS system is not a high priority to DropBox. It is a high priority in AdvisorVault.

Batch Process Any File

AdvisorVault recently launched an app that lets you batch process any file you get in a batch. If you get 1099s, brokerage statements, tax returns, or any other documents in batch, you can batch upload them to AdvisorVault.

For Methodical Advisors Only

AdvisorVault is not for everyone. Advisors who do not want to share information with clients won’t like it. Advisors who won’t follow through with setting up clients with vaults and using template emails are also not well suited for it. It’s only for advisors with an attention span long enough to facilitate following through with a plan.

Coming Soon

AdvisorVault is continuously evolving. New features we’re planning to deliver in the next 12 months will allow you to deliver clients your Form ADV, provide “star” reports on mutual funds, and enable clients to sign account documents digitally.  In addition, we plan to be enable delivery of personalized news in a client’s vault so you can address behavioral finance issues in times of volatility. We also plan to integrate with consumer vault systems like AdvisorVault so advisors can easily move documents from the most popular consumer apps to AdvisorVault’s app for professionals.

How An RIA With $1.6 Billion AUM And Serving As A Multi-Family Office Uses Advisor Products Client Vault

After 25 years as a hand surgeon, Dr. Bob Tucker left his position as medical director of a large orthopedic group in St. Louis in 2006 to become a financial advisor. Tucker joined Plancorp, an RIA in St. Louis with $1.6 billion AUM founded by Jeff Buckner. Buckner, a co-founder of Zero Alpha Group, a network of nine RIAs managing about $9 billion, gave Tucker oversight of operations, drawing on his experience in running a medical practice.

In October 2010, Plancorp selected AdvisorVault as its client portal platform. Plancorp, which uses Schwab PortfolioCenter for portfolio management and reporting, uploads client data daily to AdvisorVault.

“There were some technology issues initially, but they’ve been resolved, says Tucker. “Our clients do like it and we like it.”

Tucker says it takes about 15 minutes a day for staffer to upload the portfolio data. “Every client’s vault is branded to Plancorp, and we like that,” says Tucker. “We also like the fact that we are presenting clients with HTML reports and not just PDFs.”

AdvisorVault, like many client portfolio reporting solutions, allows RIAs to prepare PDF reports. The HTML reports use the Web medium better, allowing an RIA to present links to securities with Podcasts, news and other data. In addition, HTML reports are interactive allowing clients to export tables to Excel, reorder a report by clicking on a column heading, drill down into links to individual tax lots, and more.

Plancorp inserts a disclosure that all its clients must view before accessing reports in AdvisorVault.

Tucker says the firm recently added AdvisorVault’s integration with TD Ameritrade Institutional, which is free with AdvisorVault. TD Ameritrade Institutional integration with AdvisorVault allows RIAs to provide their clients with access to TDAI account data daily from the RIA’s website instead of directing clients to the TDAI Veo advisor-client website.

RIAs can see reports on which clients are logging into AdvisorVault to check account values and which documents are viewed. In addition, RIAs can post content that all clients will see before accessing account statements, enabling advisors to address behavioral finance issues in times of volatility.

While an operations staffer is charged with uploads of daily performance data, Tucker says financial planning associates are responsible for uploading other wealth management documents for clients. As a service to clients, Plancorp offers to post estate documents, tax returns, health care proxies, passports and more. Tucker says that although not all clients “recognize the value of having those documents available from any internet connection, a number have posted their own documents.”

Tucker says use of the vault by client is not correlated with age. “It’s more highly correlated with how obsessive the client is and whether they see the value in having documents in a place where they are safe and accessible. I don’t know that they’re interested in technology as much as the benefit.”

Attorneys, accountants, and other allied professionals are provided vault access, Tucker says. “We have created vaults for key professionals with whom we share a lot of data.” Tucker says Plancorp has relationships with several accounting firms with mutual clients, and professionals at those firms are given access to their clients’ documents.

“Another situation is a family office, where we give the outside professionals access to certain parts of the vault,” he says. “Plancorp provides the family office, but if the family has attorneys and accountants, we’ve structured vault access so that those professionals can get access to some documents.”

Tucker cited the case of a family matriarch who gets access to everything in her family vault, but her children get access that is “somewhat limited.” “Anything we can do to strengthen the relationship with next generation is done” using AdvisorVault, says Tucker.

Advisor Products is proud to have Plancorp using its secure client portal systems.




How A Sole Practitioner Is Scaling His RIA With Client Portals

With a background as an industrial engineer, CFP® Rick Epple says he realized in December 2008 that he needed to radically shift the way he managed his practice. “After the market crash in October 2008, I thought to myself that I could not do this anymore,” says the founder of Epple Financial in Wayzata, Minn. “With all the time it took to reassure clients, the fact that my technology systems did not talk to each other made it difficult to quickly get information and communicate.”

“I took a step back and asked myself what my vision was for my practice, and it was clear that I had to automate more,” Epple says, “I needed a system where I did not have to spend as much time accessing client data, where information would be at my fingertips and my clients’ fingertips.”

In early 2009, Epple decided to make the Client Portal his platform for secure client communication. He made the decision because of Client Portal’s interface with Redtail CRM. After further research, Epple selected AssetBook as his firm’s portfolio management accounting application, largely because of its integration with the Advisor Products Client Portal. He chose MoneyGuide Pro as his financial planning solution because it, too, was integrated with the Client Portal from Advisor Products.

“Changing everything was not an easy process,” says Epple. “You don’t have to be an industrial engineer to do it, but you need to make the time and financial commitment to transfer to new systems. You must be able to handle change and follow through on your plans.”

By July 2010, Epple says all of his practice management systems were running smoothly and he was ready to start marketing and scaling up.  “The benefit were not evident until early 2011,” he says. That year, Epple says his fee-only firm’s assets under management rose more than 40% from $26 million to $37 million. By the end of the first quarter of 2012, Epple Financial Advisors was at $42 million in AUM.

“It took me from working in the business to working on the business,” says Epple, who added 13 new clients and is now focused more on working with dentists and business owners in the Lake Minnetonka area near Minneapolis, Minn.

According to Epple, once AssetBook, MoneyGuide Pro, and Redtail were set up to feed client data into each client’s portal, the benefits of the automation kicks in. “The difficult part of the shift is not the Client Portal,” says Epple, “It’s switching over client data and then learning use new tools for performance reporting, financial planning and client relationship management.”

Epple says a virtual assistant sets up a portal and vault for each new client. The portal automatically generates email notifications to clients and forces them to create “strong” passwords. “It’s a user-friendly system and it does not take a lot of work to implement,” Epple says.

Some clients log into their portals daily to check their performance of their portfolios, which Epple says “does make me a bit nervous.” However, he says they are also looking at the same time at performance of their financial plan’s performance, which puts portfolio performance in perspective. On average, Epple says his 37 clients check their portal once a month.

A feature in the client portal that Epple is using extensively allows him to assign to-dos to clients. Epple creates a to-do in Redtail’s CRM and checks a box to automatically push it into a client’s portal. Clients receive an email telling them to log into their portals whenever they are assigned a to-do.

“I love the fact that my notes ion my CRM regarding a to-do for a client is exactly the same as what the client sees,” Epple says. “I don’t have copy and paste and it’s really easy.”

Epple says he meets with three times in the first four months of every new client-relationship. In that period, a series of “standard” to-dos are assigned to clients, such as getting their latest tax returns from their accountants. Other to-dos are more personalized. “Right now I am looking at whether a client should refinance the mortgage on a vacation home and communicating the personal information involved using the client portal and vault,” he says.

Epple says clients must have a “comfort level with technology” to use the portal. “But I have clients who are retirees and barely know how to use a computer but love the client portal and think it’s cool,” Epple says.


You are currently browsing the Financial Advisor Marketing & Technology blog archives for June, 2012.